Sunday afternoon we bundle up and head out for a family explore in the woods. The kids are opposed to any form of walking or hiking, even when we call it a "stomp." C suggests we just let them play in the snowbanks around the house, but I wrangle them into their snowshoes.
Last weekend we snowshoed over the river to C's dad's house. E wanted to go by car and whined and complained a great deal. But once we reached Grampy's field, it was like he had won the Super Giant Slalom in the Olympics. He threw his arms out into the victory Y and cheered "woo-woo!" all the way up to the house (Of course, coming home in the dark, at bedtime, with cold wet feet was another story).
They can do this easy hike around our trail, and I want them to get some fresh air and exercise after a Saturday spent indoors playing Uno.
I click into my cross-country skis. It is nearly March and I have only skied once so far this winter. I prefer to snowshoe, but I know regret my non-skiing if I don't go at least one more time, with fresh soft snow on the ground covering up the ice.
As usual, I bring up the rear, and E falls ever few steps, on purpose some of the time, and sometimes because he doesn't watch where he's going or he doesn't lift his feet up high enough (this new snow is wet and heavier than previous snows). Every time he falls, he pauses to eat several mouthfuls of snow.
We reach Owl Tree and a fine, light snow begins to fall from the nearly cloudless, sunny sky.
At first I think it's just blowing off the trees, but the flakes continue to sift down out on the open river.
We reach the first of possible turn-offs, and M takes charge, leading his brothers the short distance home up the hill and across the field. C and I continue down river. This is the area I think of as the Wilderness, a big meander, dotted with huge, snaggy old willows and balsam firs so perfectly conical, they trick you into thinking they're blue spruces. In summer it's thick with hummocks of neck high grasses, braided with channels of slow-moving water. It's a good place to find caddisfly larva and surprise wood ducks and pick up deer ticks.
I imagine it's what Alaska looks like, and I imagine we're a Wilderness Family of sorts, sequestered far from civilization and all its trappings, spending our days snowshoeing and skiing, and our evenings reading and knitting by the fire. It sounds much more inviting than scraping windshields and unsticking spinning tires and plowing snow, much more appealing than computers and cell phones and cubicles. Just the five of us, lots of good books and warm wool, a pot of beans simmering on the stove, and, perhaps, a deck of Uno.